About nine p.m., Santo comes in. She is crying. She says, ‘She ’s not so good,sweetheart,’ with the downward inflection of bad news, and I know it is worse than that. I plead with the ceiling. Shake my head.

‘They want to wheel you around to see her before she leaves for Brisbane.’

Suddenly it is like a military operation as I am wheeled from the room and down corridors towards an even wider corridor.The neon ceiling lights pass like a movie cliché.

She is hidden inside a huge machine, a portable humidicrib,which sits blinking lights and vital signs,flaps pulled over to regulate temperature.

The paediatrician from Brisbane, a man with soft, sorry eyes, introduces himself and tells me she is sedated for the journey and they are just about to leave.That it has taken some time to prepare her to travel,that they will airlift her to Brisbane where they will try one last machine,but they don ’t hold out much hope for her survival. I search his eyes for better news but he keeps the same sorry gaze fixed on me.

Photo of Vanessa and LaylaThey lift the flaps so I can look at her a last time.The stitches strain to break as I try to lift myself. Someone helps prop me up and there she is,on her side,naked except for a nappy and a little white woollen bonnet.Tubes down her nose and mouth, monitors attached to her chest, no room left for a mother to stroke. Except her forehead. I stroke it but she is not there. Her arm is stretched out, her hand cups the air. I place my finger in her palm,hoping to feel her tiny fingers grip me with the instinct of a newborn,but there is no response. And I know then that she has lost her grip on life.

I look on her, trying to drink her in, torn between wanting it to last forever and wanting her to be rushed to the machine that might be her only chance of life. I whisper goodbye.

I lie down and they cover the humidicrib again.I plead something at the doctor like, Please try as hard as you can. He nods sadly and says, ‘We better go now,’ and they move away.

I am turned and pushed in the other direction and as she slips away from me a cry rises from the depth of all the grief I ’ve ever known. Santo covers my eyes with her hand and I reach to my mouth to stifle this horrible moan in so public a place. I am wheeled back to the room and wait to hear the helicopter take off. A nurse gives me a sleeping pill and I am gone. My vigil is over. She is in others’ hands now and all that is left to do is surrender to my exhaustion.

Love's Revolution

The Thin Pink Line

Journal - October 2000

Soiled Blessings

Commemorating Loss